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Dublin: 18 °C Monday 20 August, 2018
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Wildfire unveils huge WWII 'EIRE' sign on Bray Head

The signs were used during World War II to guide pilots, as Ireland was a neutral country.

WhatsApp Image 2018-08-04 at 13.17.01 (1) Source: Air Corps

WILDFIRES ON THE Wicklow coast have unveiled a large ‘Eire’ sign on Bray Head that dates back to World War II.

The sign was spotted by a Garda Air Support Unit aircraft as it made its way across the east coast this weekend.

WhatsApp Image 2018-08-04 at 13.17.01

An Air Corps spokesperson told TheJournal.ie: “The reason it’s been spotted is because of the fires on Bray Head – they have burnt away all the gorse that was there, leaving this exposed. You can make out the Eire, and just above it the number 8 – it’s very faint. The number represented the Look Out Post it was designated to. When they were in proper use, the signs would have been whitewashed.”

During the Second World War, Ireland was neutral. Between 1942 and 1943, large signs were placed across the Irish coastline by the Coast Watching Service to act as navigational aids for pilots because of the huge volume of planes – such as American bombers – crossing over the island.

WhatsApp Image 2018-08-04 at 13.17.01 (2) Source: Air Corps

The signs were made by local Look Out Post volunteers and featured the word EIRE and the Look Out Post (LOP) number. The LOPs were set up as a way of guarding against an invasion of Ireland, and required a person to keep watch at each site for 24 hours a day. The troops posted at each LOP reported back to military intelligence.

According to EireMarkings.org, which has a comprehensive rundown of all of these markings, about 85 signs were built by volunteers. Not all of them have survived or are still visible.

Wildfires

The recent hot weather contributed to an outbreak of wildfires across the island of Ireland, with the Air Corps being called in to help local fire-fighting services on multiple occasions.

Four weeks ago, it was tasked to assist the Wicklow Fire Service fight the fire on Bray Head, and dumped 150,000 litres of water over two days on the area. Bray Head was quite extensively damaged by the fire, said the Air Corps spokesperson.

In total, the Air Corps helped fight fires in over eight counties, including Co Antrim – an area it wouldn’t usually be called to. In total, it dropped nearly one million litres of water on the blazes.

For many years, the Bray Head sign had been covered by gorse. Now that it has been discovered, there is the potential for the Office of Public Works to take over the sign and restore it to its original state. Signs in some parts of the country, such as this one on Kilronan on the Aran Islands, have been restored by locals:

unnamed (9) Source: Air Corps

A map of the neutrality markings around Ireland can be found here.

The signs are just another example of Ireland’s hidden history which has been uncovered thanks to the summer weather. For example, two new potential henges were found in Newgrange, while a possible barrow cemetery and ancient settlement were found in the Boyne Valley.

Who knows what else will be unveiled before the summer is over?

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